Are tea bags bad for you? A teabag is the first experience many of us have with tea, but in order to truly experience the world of tea, you have to go for loose leaf tea. There are many reasons why you want to avoid teabags when it comes to environment and preparing tea. We’re going to cover a few of them here 👇
What are tea bags made of?
Most teabags are made from nylon, plastic or bleached paper. Many teabags are then also sealed with a type of glue. When you ask the question are teabags bad for you, you really need to take a look at the individual materials used to make each one.
While the old fashioned teabags are made from paper, a lot of newer teabags are made from a type of plastic. Although the plastic won’t “melt” when you put it in hot water, it will corrode overtime and release microplastics into the tea. The paper teabags don’t get a free pass either. Even though they are made from paper, it is often bleached paper, and the teabags are often sealed with either staples or glue, both of which can have harmful effects.
What makes your tea bags toxic
When it comes to asking are teabags bad for you and your health, an important thing to look at is the microplastics. It was recently found that 11.6 billion microplastics and 3.1 billion nano plastics can be released in a single cup of tea.
These microplastics are released as the hot water interacts with the teabag. When you drink a cup of tea, you are ingesting plastic. Although it is a very small amount, it still adds up overtime.
Harmful effects of paper, plastic & nylon tea bags
Nylon is a common ingredient for teabags because it has a higher heat tolerance than plastic, but it still can be degraded with boiling water. As you may notice by now, boiling water and chemicals really don’t go together!
Plastic teabags are of course the worst offenders. The plastic used to make plastic teabags is polyethylene, the same used to make grocery bags. This material is really problematic when submerged into boiling water, or even warm water.
On the surface, paper teabags may seem like they are a healthy alternative, but this can be misleading. This is because the paper teabags are almost always treated with bleach to make them white. This bleaching process uses chemicals like chlorine dioxide. Although this trick is used to make the teabags look clean and pure, the opposite is true.
So are teabags bad for you? That depends on what they are made out of, but all of the most common types seem to be.
To conclude and based on our research, we can say that paper, plastic & nylon tea bags have two main harmful effect:
#1 Harmful effects on your health
#2 Harmful effects on our planet
#1 Harmful effects on your health
Although more research is needed, it would appear that microplastics are making their way into our food chain and consequently into our digestive systems. The full extend of this is not fully known, but some plastics like Bisphenol A (BPA) are known endocrine disruptors. This means that they can have harmful effects on the hormonal activity in humans.
So again we ask are teabags bad for you? Based on the microplastics alone, it would appear so. The bad news doesn’t end there, we haven’t even looked at the environmental impacts.
#2 Harmful effects on our planet
The material in the teabags aren’t just bad for the flavor, they’re also bad for the environment as well. Another reason not to drink teabags is that they are an environmental disaster. It’s estimated that in Britain alone, there are 100 million cups of tea drunk every day. With 96% of that being teabags, that’s as many as 35 billion teabags thrown out each year.
This is not just paper but in many cases it contains harmful plastics, metal from the staples and strong. It’s also important to consider that a lot of teabags are individually wrapped, creating even more material. A good way to reduce all this extra waste is to switch to loose leaf tea. Loose leaf tea is far more efficient in terms of packaging and when you are done with the tea, you can just compost the leaves!
More Tea detritus vs loos leaf tea
Teabags also are thrown out after one use. Loose leaf tea, on the other hand, can be reused many different times. Some teas can even improve the second or third time around like fukamushi sencha, which becomes and even more vibrant shade of green with stronger vegetable tasting notes.
This also lowers the price per cup. If you want to compare the prices of loose leaf tea and teabag tea, you have to consider that a teabag only contains 2 grams of actually tea and it likely needs to be thrown out after 1 brewing. Loose leaf tea on the other hand can be used 3-5 times, so that 100 gram pack of tea can be used to make 150-250 equivalent cups, with a much better flavor. That being said, we recommend that you use 5 grams of leaves and a smaller amount of water to really concentrate the brewing and create a more powerful flavor profile. It’s better to enjoy a smaller quantity of really amazing tea than a larger quantity of slightly watered down tea.
How to avoid the harmful effects of tea bags
The best way to avoid the harmful effects of teabags is to become self-sufficient. Later on in this guide, we will be providing you with instructions of how to prepare your own tea and teabags at home. This means that you don’t have to rely on the big teabag companies anymore, and you can drink healthy, high quality green tea!
How to know if your tea bags are safe
Of course when people ask are teabags bad for you they are really asking about the teabags they are using. It doesn’t hurt to check the ingredients of your teabags. If these ingredients are unavailable, this is already a bad sign. If the ingredients contain nylon or plastic, this is also not a good sign. You can also tell a lot just by looking at the teabag itself. If there is a staple on it, glued/sealed edges or white paper, these are signs you should avoid the teabag.
What are the better alternatives to tea bags?
There are two main alternatives to teabags. The first is loose leaf tea, which we would strongly recommend. If you really cannot give up the teabags, or you are on the move a lot, you can always make your own.
#1 Loose leaf tea
The best solution to the teabag conundrum is to just switch to loose leaf tea. This may seem like a difficult switch, but all you need is a strainer and some loose leaf tea.
Just this switch alone will make a huge difference in your tea ritual. Even some of the mid-grade loose leaf teas outshine some of the most expensive teabags.
#2 Make your own tea bags
If you really must keep using the teabag, we suggest you use your own. Just like cooking your own food, making your own teabags lets you really control what goes into your body. We recommend going for a silk teabag that has a resealable pouch.
These are common in Japan, and we sometimes use them when we are traveling to meet farmers. You can use high quality loose leaf tea inside the teabag and seal it up without any glue or staples. It may not be nearly as good as loose leaf, but it still is miles apart from mass produced teabags.
3 reasons why you will never prepare a great green tea with tea bags:
In addition to being bad for your health, teabags are bad for your taste buds as well. For us the question of are teabags bad for you also comes down to the taste of them. It is important to find a tea that you truly enjoy, and you will find that loose leaf tea almost always beats teabags.
1. Tea bags contain much lower quality leaves
The first and most important point to cover is the fact that teabags tend to contain much lower quality leaves than loose leaf tea. In order to get large tea leaves into a teabag, they have to be be broken down and therefore they will lose a lot of their essential oils, which are responsible for the complex flavors and aromas of a tea. A producer making high quality tea for a premium market would never waste the leaves in a teabag, so all of the best teas in the world are made for loose leaf consumption.
Teabags are made with the casual tea drinker in mind, and therefore they are mass produced using cheaper leaves. Teabags are often made from the leftover leaves from the tea production process. They can be made from later harvests with less nutrients or contain older leaves, stems or other plant material. The flavor of loose leaf and teabags couldn’t be more different, with the teabags having a flat and bitter flavor and loose leaf green tea having a sweet and complex assortment of flavors.
2. Tea bags are the less effective way to brew tea
Even if you were to use high quality leaves for a teabag, the teabag itself is a less effective way to brew the tea. Tea leaves need plenty of space to open up and release their full flavor into the water. When they are cramped inside a small space like a teabag, the flavor becomes weaker. This is the second main reason to not use a teabag.
You want to prepare loose leaf tea in a teapot like this so the leaves have more space to open up. You can then just pour out the teapot and the built in filter will help keep the leaves out of your cup. A common misconception about loose leaf tea is that you have to drink the leaves along with the tea, but there are many tools for filtering them out. The simplest is to just use a metal strainer to replace a teabag, although this won’t allow quite as much space and the flavor will be a bit weaker.
3. Tea bags affect the flavor of the tea
The third reason not to use teabags is that the teabags themselves can affect the flavor of the drink. Don’t forget that when you prepare a tea with a teabag, you are also pouring hot water onto the paper and plastic as well. This is why a lot of teabags have a cardboard flavor. The cardboard flavor is not only from the low quality tea leaves, but also the paper in the bag itself.
In addition to paper, most teabags are often sealed together with some type of glue. This glue is plastic based, and it can easily be pulled out by water, particularly hot water. You also have staples and string on the teabag, which can all negatively impact the flavor. What you want to do is avoid all these materials and just prepare tea the traditional way, with a clay teapot, some water and some leaves.
Conclusion: Are tea bags bad for you? Yes and also for the environment!
So, are teabags bad for you? Based on the information we have regarding the effects of microplastics, the difference in flavor and the effect on the environment, we can definitely conclude that teabags are bad for you and the planet.
This may be hard to hear for a lot of people, and almost every serious tea drinker started out with teabags, so we all understand it can be difficult to make the switch.
We like to think that this information is a great opportunity to explore the great world of loose leaf tea. When you dive into loose leaf tea, you will find so much more flavor, variety and aromas.
I hope this article has helped you make the switch from teabags to loose leaf. If you’re looking to pick up a teapot, you can get a free one on our website with certain orders. If you need any recommendations for which loose leaf teas to start with, please feel free to leave us a message in the comments below. Thanks so much for reading, we’ll see you next time.